Airbus withdraws from Air Force One race


Air Force One. Boeing image

NEW YORK (BNS): The European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co (EADS) has announced that it is not in the race for supplying the next US Presidential aircraft fleet. This clearly leaves Boeing as the only supplier as responses to a request for information from the US Air Force closed on Wednesday.

Guy Hicks, the company’s spokesman said that EADS strategy for growth in the US is based on bringing value to the US war fighter; making industrial investments in the US and in-sourcing high-technology defence and aerospace jobs.

“After careful review, we've determined that participation in the Air Force One programme will not help us meet these business objectives,” Hicks said.

Flightglobal.com reported that the US-based subsidiary of the European conglomerate, which includes Airbus, will not respond to a US Air Force (USAF) request for information. The website reported that the RFI was the first step in the process to acquire a replacement after 2017 for the Boeing 747-200-based VC-25 fleet, also known as Air Force One (AF-1).

Meanwhile, Aviationweek.com reported that some industry officials suggest EADS may have opted to avoid another high-profile fight with Boeing on Capitol Hill. “American advocates hammered the Air Force last year after it awarded the KC-135 replacement deal to a team of Northrop Grumman and EADS North America, which proposed an Airbus A330 variant. That deal was scrapped after Boeing protested and congressional auditors determined that the Air Force broke procurement guidelines. A new competition is expected,” the Aviationweek.com reported.

The Flightglobal.com website quoted that the company was still active in the US defence market. “EADS NA remains involved in the KC-X competition with Northrop Grumman, and is considering bidding for the US Army armed reconnaissance helicopter (ARH) contract. EADS also is delivering up to 322 UH-72A light utility helicopters to the army.

EADS first confirmed interest in the AF-1 replacement contract in October 2007,” the website said. It went on to add that the company was invited to submit data on the A330, A340 and A380 as part of an analysis of alternatives. At the time, EADS spoke of providing the USAF more data about the A380 than provided to any other Airbus customer, it said.

Flightglobal.com reported that in September last, EADS posted a job advertisement calling for a business development executive to market Airbus aircraft for a variety of USAF requirements, including AF-1.

With EADS backing out the scenario belongs to Boeing only as the USAF is searching for a commercial wide-bodied aircraft, leaving the 767, 777, 787 and 747-8 as available candidates.

Boeing delivered both VC-25s currently in service in 1990. The first one is scheduled to be replaced in Fiscal 2017 and the second in FY19. A third aircraft is also planned to join the expanded fleet in FY21. Boeing has been the AF-1 supplier since 1962, when the 707-based VC-137 entered service.

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